Duncan visits Philly to press for Gov. Wolf’s education plan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was in Philadelphia today to stump for Governor Tom Wolf’s education budget, which he says could turn around the prospects of a state that ranks “dead last” when it comes to equitable school funding.

“Pennsylvania can’t be fiftieth anymore,” said Duncan after a visit to the E.M. Stanton Elementary in South Philadelphia.

“If the legislature can come together in a bipartisan way, then the children here in Stanton, and in Philly, and across the state would have access to so much more than they have today. That’s the hope, and that’s the goal, and that’s why I keep coming back here.”

Duncan praised Stanton for doing great things on a shoestring. And local officials such as Mayor Michael Nutter, Superintendent William Hite, and acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera praised Duncan in return.

But not all Obama administration policies are equally popular at Stanton. Duncan has been criticized lately for supporting the high stakes tests in the No Child Left Behind law.

Teacher Joan Carter Williams says those tests now dominate the school year, requiring weeks of preparation.

“You have the math test, you have the reading test, you have the science test,” Carter Williams said. “Each one of those tests takes two weeks. It’s a lot. It’s a lot.”

Carter Williams would love to see Congress cut back testing when it revisits the No Child law later this year. And some Republicans in Washington are calling for the same thing, saying the federal government should cut back on spending and get out of the testing business.

But Duncan says he believes that children need to be evaluated honestly, and that the tests should stay.

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